The return to normal on the roads, a few months after the spring containment, suggests a trend that could worsen congestion, say experts.
The newspaper revealed, Thursday, that the situation had returned to practically normal on the roads as soon as the deconfinement began. In light of MTQ figures over such a short period, the traffic situation is likely to degenerate in the medium term, before eventually returning to normal, according to Jean Dubé, economist and associate professor at the École supérieure d’aménagement. of the territory and regional development of Laval University.
“As we can already see the level of traffic we had before, probably the traffic will increase even more. Until people think they are tired of wasting their time in the car and make the decision to go back to public transit. ” But in the meantime, we risk living a “bubble” during which, “I’m pretty sure it will get worse”.
Because he observes two phenomena. First, people quickly started moving again after deconfinement. Then, people used to taking public transit may have opted for the safer car during the pandemic. This partly cancels out the effects of teleworking.
An opinion shared by François Pépin, of Trajectoire Québec. He fears a situation that will worsen in congestion in the medium term. “If there are more cars on the road when we get back, it will be a mess. Before people decide to change their behavior, they’re going to have to go through hell. ”
He notes that according to a survey carried out by his organization, 75% of regular users of public transport in Quebec were considering returning to the buses once the crisis has passed. “But 25% said they would no longer use it. And these 25%, they are by car, ”he says.
Limits of teleworking
For Jean Mercier, retired professor from the Department of Political Science at Laval University, specializing in transport and public policies, “we discovered teleworking during the pandemic, but we also discovered the limits of telework”.
Moreover, in the context where the ridership of the Capital Transportation Network has not returned to pre-crisis levels, Mr. Mercier notes that “this is bad news for public transit”.
“This is a perfect example of what is called induced demand,” says Jean Dubé. Seeing the space that has been created on the roads, motorists immediately tend to rush into it, increasing daily flows.
From experience, in the major crises that have affected confidence in public transport, such as the attacks targeting transport in Madrid and Brussels, for example, we observe that the return to normal in traffic takes about one an, notes the professor. Thus, he expects the same phenomenon to be experienced here too, some 12 months after the pandemic is behind us, which is difficult to predict over time.
Tram and third link
According to Jean Mercier, supporters of the structuring network and those of the third link will each find reasons to strengthen their convictions with the pandemic. Proponents of the third link will argue that with the decline in transit ridership, the answer to congestion lies in adding more roads. The protramways will rather say that with the possible discovery of a vaccine, it will be even more important to have efficient public transport to help economic recovery, quotes Mr. Mercier.
François Pépin reiterates, for his part, that public transport keeps “its place and its importance”.
As for the City of Quebec, it is estimated that the figures from the Ministry of Transport confirm that the impact of long-term teleworking on road congestion will not be significant.
“The City is also of the opinion that the pandemic represents a temporary shock whereas the structuring public transport network is planned over a horizon of 50 years”, indicated the spokesperson David O’Brien. “Although telework has increased in recent months, it is important to remember that it remains impossible for about two-thirds of jobs. Work-related trips represent less than half of the total trips recorded in the territory. “
He points out that the forecast population increase in Quebec is over 57,000 citizens by 2036 and that the number of trips should jump 100,000 per day. “The structuring network must capture 53% of this expected increase.”
“In this context, the relevance of the structuring public transport network is undeniable, since it will offer more mobility choices to all citizens of Quebec.”